They say success often comes from the strangest of places. For Dimitrios Koussioulas, it came out of the living room of his apartment in Montreal's Mile End neighbourhood.
It was there last fall that he decided he was going to create what he felt his walking grounds desperately needed: its very own talk show. "This neighbourhood really is one of the greatest I've ever been in," says Koussioulas, 35. "I felt like there were so many people who would be good to interview, to talk to about their connection to Montreal and to Mile End specifically."
That led Koussioulas, who's held a number of different jobs since getting a BA in English lit from Concordia University, to dedicate a few months to creating 16 episodes of his own talk show. Featuring a flashy, Saturday Night Live-esque opening, the show is based on the basic template, with Koussioulas perched behind a desk and the guests appearing on a couch. But the opening applause is canned since there's no studio audience – just two crew members and the rest of Koussioulas's apartment.
After the show, titled Parc Avenue Tonight, began airing on YouTube last fall, Koussioulas says he started getting high-fived as he walked down the street. "People felt the same way I did," he recalls. "They love TV, but didn't feel represented on it. There are so many people in this 'hood who have stories to tell."
Koussioulas has certainly heeded one strain of conventional media wisdom, about the importance of going hyper-local. The guests in what he refers to as his "first season" include musicians, cabaret performers, casting agents, restaurateurs, a filmmaker and a man who runs a local office-supply shop. Conversations are pleasingly unpolished ("Nothing is edited out," he notes), including questions like "Where do you buy your coffee?" and "What about your doughnuts?" Koussioulas adds his own editorial comments, telling one guest, "We need a street sale, desperately, on Parc Avenue."
But if it all looks a bit hokey, consider that Parc Avenue Tonight caught the eye of a producer at CITY-TV, who was busy concocting a new weekly show called Only in Montreal, to debut this July. After a meeting with Koussioulas, she hired him as one of the co-hosts of the new show. "My YouTube experiment led to a paid gig," he says, obviously pleased. "But I knew this might happen. An astrologer predicted this career path for me."
The son of fishmongers (mom and dad still run a fish shop in Montreal's Plateau neighbourhood), Koussioulas will have to alter some of his act for the CITY-TV show. Part of his shtick is to be smoking a cigarette, pretty much non-stop, during Parc Avenue Tonight. "People actually said I might be inspiring young people to smoke, but I really doubt it," he says.
Koussioulas has likened himself to "a dead Merv Griffin" but says he doesn't really have a specific role model. "I like them all, Merv, Johnny, early Letterman, Conan. I like to talk, I love to meet new people. Talking to people for a show just seemed natural to me." He's quick to add, however, that "unlike most of them, I'm not a comedian. I just had some time and the balls to do this. I think the most important thing I told myself was not to be afraid to look a bit silly. I'm glad I've been proven right. We needed a show like this."